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Rattlesnake Contest Gives Participants A Toxin-Free Thrill

Mon., June 23, 1997

This year, the humans won.

The town fire company held its 10th-annual rattlesnake hunt and bagging contest Sunday, and for the first time in a long time, the paramedics on standby had little to do but sit back and enjoy the show.

Seven teams of two contestants each entered a screened-in cage, grabbed five poisonous rattlesnakes, put them in a bag and then walked out. Not a one suffered a bite.

Hundreds of spectators, however, were bitten by the thrill of the chase.

“It’s a lot like going to a NASCAR race,” said Don Kitko, 45, of Altoona, Pa. “It’s the same sort of expectation, … like waiting for a crash.”

The contest is fairly simple: One teammate holds the bag; the other, a stick to handle the snakes. There are few rules: Keep the top of the bag above knee-level, don’t abuse the Western diamondbacks and make sure they go in tail first.

Any blood from a bite is a three-second penalty.

Curwensville’s event is one of four rattlesnake-hunting contests held in Pennsylvania each June. Top qualifiers at each go on to state championships.

Bob Couturiaux, who drove from Niagara Falls, N.Y., said hunting rattlesnakes makes him feel alive.

“Why do something sissy like, like play golf?” he asked. “There’s no challenge without the rattles. My little kids can pick up the little ones.”

Rory Bradley, 28, also loved the thrill. “There’s nothing else like it. I ain’t done nothing today - no beer, no nothing. And I feel like I’m on a rocket ship.”


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